Amazon wants to bring the concept of digital subscriptions to electronic books — opening up a catalog of content to people who pay an annual fee, according to a Wall Street Journal report today, citing anonymous sources.

Some sites are calling the idea “a Netflix for books,” but just to be clear, that’s a reference the digital streaming side of the Netflix streaming service, not the company’s DVD-by-mail business. In that way, it might as well be considered a Rhapsody or Spotify for books. It would be available subscribers of the Amazon Prime service, which currently runs $79/year.

Amazon isn’t commenting on the report.

The concept sounds interesting but the WSJ story quickly adds some caveats. First off, publishing houses don’t appear to be particularly keen on the idea (another parallel to the music industry). And even if Amazon were to succeed in getting it off the ground content would consist of older titles, not new releases.

Amazon separately announced plans in April to launch a Kindle Library Lending service sometime this year, letting Kindle users can borrow digital books from 11,000 U.S. libraries. A specific launch date for that service hasn’t yet been announced.

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  • christiananderson

    Assuming this is true, this has to be where they start giving Kindles away (with a sub). 

  • Monica Guzman

    @christiananderson:disqus  I’ve heard of that as an idea to boost a platform business – give away the platform. I’ll admit, I’d be excited about a book subscription service. But as WSJ  mentions, publishers may not be. They’ve had enough disruption as it is.

    • Todd Bishop

      @twitter-3452941:disqus Agreed, and even if it happens, another factoid from the Journal story (in the subscription version) is that Amazon is offering book publishers a “substantial fee” to participate … which unfortunately would seem to work against the idea of a free Kindle, as interesting as that would be.

  • Nathan Wrann

    Doesn’t this already exist? It’s called a “library” and there isn’t a monthly fee.

    • Mich

      But you have to stand up to get there.

    • Guest

      Have you been to a library lately, Nathan? Seattle’s “libraries” are homeless shelters with Wi-Fi. I speak for all my fellow tech-adepts when I say I don’t go to such unsavoury places.

      • nwrann

        You’re already paying for it (in taxes) you may as well use it and change the culture there. 

        • Guest

          Get me Tim Eyman. I’m not paying to fund something I don’t use.

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